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tv   Hardball With Chris Matthews  MSNBC  February 4, 2013 5:00pm-6:00pm EST

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so that's what we've been seeing the last few days, and again police have been very tight-lipped and haven't said exactly what they have been finding or what the location -- or what the layout of dykes' property has been. >> gabe gutierrez, thank you so much. sorry -- you need to stay there, sorry, gabe. i wanted to ask you one more question concerning the bus driver. charles poland, who was laid to rest. he's being hailed as something of a hero because he was approached by the individual suspect and shot defending the other children on the bus. >> reporter: that's exactly right, martin. he's been hailed as a hero by this community. his funeral was yesterday. spoke of him as being a hero for getting in front of the suspect and for taking a bullet and giving his life essentially for these children. he protected more than 20 kids who were on this bus, and charles poland, jr. according to his family was also a veteran.
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he loved -- he was -- his hobby was being an auto mechanic and really it was amazing to see this community come together and call this man a hero for what he did. we spoke with his son and daughter last week and they were just torn apart and his daughter told me that, you know, people are calling him a hero, but he's been a hero all her life. so they have been remembering him for the past few days. yesterday was his funeral, and this community has been really shocked about what happened here. >> okay. well, we are awaiting a press conference. we know that the hostage standoff has come to an end. when were you alerted to matters being resolved from where you're standing? because obviously you're being held some distance away, but when did it become more obvious to you that something was going on? >> reporter: well, it was a short time ago, martin, really a few minutes before we came on the air. we noticed some activity up that road. we've been, you know, watching this situation with cameras. we have not been broadcasting those live pictures because of
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the ongoing nature of this hostage situation and we've been very careful not to broadcast any of those pictures, but we did hear some sort of boom, unclear what that boom is, and then we heard some s.w.a.t. members, some activity, and that happened at times before but we weren't sure exactly what that meant. this time we did see some officials come out and they seemed to be in not such a worried mood anymore but a little bit just -- there was some change in the mood, but what we did see was an ambulance come down that hill, and that signified that something significant was going on. within a few seconds of that really, there was an official that came up to where the media is gathered slightly out of breath and said that we'd be getting a press conference within a few minutes, and that was about 20 minutes to half an hour ago, and he said that there would be officials there from different agencies. so again we're still awaiting that news conference and we'll certainly bring you that information as soon as we get it.
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>> and we're now hearing from the associated press that a boom was heard and a gunshot. >> reporter: i can't speak to the gunshot, martin, but -- >> that's what the associated press is saying. >> reporter: that's right. we did hear some sort of boom. i cannot confirm whether it was a gunshot or not. certainly we should find out within the next few minutes exactly the nature of that boom and possible gunshot according to the associated press. but again, a very -- this has been quite an ordeal for this entire community over the past few days and to hear from the dale county sheriff's office, a source within that department, that this standoff has come to a resolution, certainly a lot of people will want to find out exactly what happened. >> we've also been watching pictures of what appeared to be fbi and law enforcement sort of high-fiving as if some kind of conclusion had actually happened. we're seeing pictures now. did you observe them?
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did you hear anything that they were saying? >> reporter: well, we are quite a long distance away. if you can see behind me. those pictures were taken from our camera position with a zoom pretty much all the way on. but that's the dirt road leading up to the bunker. right now it's jimmy dykes' property. we did see some law enforcement officials shaking hands and high-fiving. however, you know, that seems to suggest that there might be some sort of positive outcome here, but again we just don't know that at this point and we don't want to speculate on what exactly happened, but it does seem to suggest that it could be a positive outcome. again, we don't want to speculate. >> i need to report to you, gabe, that our justice correspondent pete williams is reporting that a law enforcement official says initial reports are that the kidnapper in alabama is dead and the boy is okay. >> reporter: okay.
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well, that's news to me, martin. again, you know, i've been with you for the past few minutes and we do not know here on the scene that has not been reported to us. but it did seem there was some excitement from law enforcement officials if it is true that the child was found safe. so we'll just have to wait and see over the next few minutes once officials come here and tell us exactly what happened. >> but you did mention earlier that you saw an ambulance moving. is that right? >> reporter: that is correct. that would seem to suggest that the child might have been brought out on that ambulance. we don't know that for sure, but we had not seen that ambulance come down that dirt road before, and it was around the same time we heard that boom, when we heard that activity, and, you know, we're just really waiting to find out, and certainly if that is true, that this child made it out, that would be an incredible relief for this community. midland city, alabama, is a small town, about 2,400 people, and they have just been rocked
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by this standoff the past few days. about 140 hours at this point, and people here are tired because they've been praying for the past few days. they've been watching this unfold and really hoping that this would turn -- have a peaceful resolution, and they've been putting up ribbons, holding prayer vigils every night, praying for 5-year-old e ethan to survive that horrible ordeal. >> gabe, do stay with us, because we will come to you if this press conference occurs in the next few minutes. joining us now is former fbi profiler clint van zandt. clint, are you on the line with us? >> yes, i am, martin. >> what is your reaction to hearing the news that this hostage standoff appears to have been resolved snt o edresolved? our justice correspondent pete williams is reporting that initial reports is that the kidnapper in alabama is dead but the boy is okay.
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>> obviously, you would want everybody to come out of this alive, martin, but my background as an fbi hostage negotiator is that you would work very hard, and i'm sure the negotiators did these last seven days, building some type of positive relationship not only between themselves and jimmy lee dykes, but making every positive nuance they could get to connect him with that little boy. realize that mr. dykes we know was a father himself. he has a grown adult daughter. so all of these things would be very subtly rolled into the negotiations, and should mr. dykes be deceased at his own hands or at the hands of law enforcement, obviously that's a shame, but the thing that we want to see in a situation like this is, number one, we want the hostage to come out alive. number two, we want to protect
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law enforcement, and, number three, the hostage taker pretty much makes his own choice. for seven days they have extended to him the hand to come on out of that bunker and surrender himself. for seven days he's turned that down. he either made a decision himself today or law enforcement made a decision they were going to resolve it, and the positive thing is this little boy turning 6 on wednesday, he will be with his family to celebrate that birthday. >> well, as i say, our justice correspondent pete williams is reporting that a law enforcement official says initial reports are that the kidnapper in alabama is dead but the boy is okay. clint, what would have provoked the team to act today as opposed to waiting another 24 hours? >> you get to a point in these situations, martin, where you're constantly doing this cost benefit analysis where you're trying to say, is there a reason today to go?
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has the threat to the hostage, in this case this 5-year-old boy, has that threat increased based upon the time that this has taken place, based upon the medicine that he is or is not taking, and based upon the emotional response of the hostage taker himself. if law enforcement felt that that threat was being increased within that bunker, one way or the other, they may have made a decision for a tactical resolution. that's the last thing they want to do, as you know, martin. there's not -- there's nothing there, and having done if for 25 years i can tell you, there's nothing within the fbi or law enforcement that would want to go to guns, but, again, in your worst case scenario, they've had seven days to practice a tactical entry. if in fact, that was part of the resolution, i'm sure they did it, and i'm sure they did it very efficiently and realize in those close proximity that they had to get in there, one way or
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the other they either devised a plan or mr. dykes by his own hands. one way or the other, they got this 5-year-old boy out, and, martin, as you know, children are resilient. it's a terrible seven dayins th little boy has gone through, but now they will work hard building positive memories and ideas and thoughts he' thoughts. he'll be with his family. there's a strong probability he will recover psychologically from this. that community that lost a bus driver that was a tremendously tragic loss, they're going to have to deal with that memory for the rest of their lives, too. >> clint, you outlined the psychological challenges for the team in trying to assess the hostage taker, but this was also a challenging environmental set of circumstances. this was not a house. this was some kind of bunker,
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wasn't it? what are the specific challenges that are thrown up by some kind of underground setting? >> number one, there was only one way in and one way out. we're told this bunker was approximately 4 to 6 feet by 6 to 8 feet. it was about 4 feet underground. there was a set of steps that led down to it. martin, if you can imagine a worse case scenario, one way in, one way out, and the subject, mr. dykes is down there, he's armed, he has his hostage, and everything that you would think of normally where, you know, you could come through different windows and doors or you could use listening devices or a lot of different things, all of the tools that law enforcement has that were denied them on this, and they had to get in to neutralize for lack of a better term the hostage taker and to try to find a way to get in
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without injury to that little boy. martin, that's a very tough decision. if, i say if, law enforcement made a decision to go in tactically, i'm sure there were elements of local and state police, the fbi, negotiators, tactical team, hostage rescue team. that's their job, to do something like this, martin. but just because it's your job doesn't mean you want to do it and doesn't mean that the results are always going to be good. in this situation, it appears that it is, and i think the community had a lot of reason to have gratitude for all levels of law enforcement because the bottom line is the prize in this, if you would, is getting that little boy out alive. you know, martin, i have seen these situations over the years where children have fallen down wells, and entire communities surround that well 24 or 48 hours. here is a situation again, an
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underground situation, and a community pulled together cheering for the little boy and hoping upon hope that he would be rescued. it looks like he was. >> indeed it does, and the mayor's office, clint, is reporting that the child himself, little 5-year-old ethan, about to turn 6 years of age, is actually en route to the hospital. i'm also presuming, clint, that anxieties must have been even more raised because this individual, jimmy lee dykes, had already shot someone. had already killed someone on that school bus. this was a man who was indicating the propensity to kill. >> and this is someone, martin, at least in his own mind may well have felt he had nothing to lose and no reason to come out. and that, again, was the additional challenge for the negotiator to try to give him a reason to live, to try to give him a reason to release that little boy unharmed. and, again, that's what they
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would have been doing very carefully for these last seven days is building a scenario where as a negotiator we'd say, jimmy lee, we know you have this little boy down there. we know you're responsible. we understand that, and just like the sheriff said within the last couple days, we know he's going to take care of him and we appreciate that. you play on -- and i say that very positively, you work with, play on that maternal instinct. martin, sometimes in the very worst of us, there is that element of goodness that you can grab hold of and build on. that may well have been something negotiators were able to do in this case. >> and presumably the individual himself being the father of a child, a daughter, a grown-up daughter, presumably they must have tried to link in some way his sense of pa ter nal feelings towards his own child and that of the child that he was holding, little 5-year-old ethan. >> you would go back -- you
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know, part of this is based upon the intelligence information you have, but let's say hypothetically you knew, in fact, that he had been a parent, he had been at a home where he had contact with his daughter at the time she was 5. you would build upon that. jimmy lee, remember when your daughter was 5, and remember if she was gone from the house an hour or so the anxiety you would feel as a parent. you can imagine that same level of anxiety that you share with ethan's parents. and those are things that negotiators would talk about time and time again, and it's just like filling a sandbag. how do you fill a sandbag? you do it one shovel at a time. psychologically, you have one thought, one idea at a time and you build and you build and you build on that, and eventually you fill the bag or you build a wall of ideas and hopefully that wall was there to protect this
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child. >> sheriff wally olson of dale county referring to the individual hostage taker, jimmy lee dykes said, and i'm quoting the sheriff, he feels like he has a story that's important to him. although it's very complex, we're trying to make a safe environment. what kind of story would an individual have that would prompt them to take a 5-year-old child hostage having killed the bus driver of a school vehicle? >> well, i think there may have been a number of things going on with mr.d ykes. number one, we're told by friends and neighbors that he didn't like government for whatever his reason. number two, that he had conflicts with his neighbors. so all of these scenarios that were going on, he may have felt, for example, martin, that he was the victim, that he was being oppressed. that, in fact, even with the shooting of the bus driver, and
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realize i only say this from a negotiator's perspective to try to minimize what he did in his own mind, the negotiator could build a scenario to the effect that, jimmy lee, you didn't mean to shoot the bus driver. you went on board, you had a gun to protect yourself. that gun went off accidentally. now, is that the truth? obviously we believe otherwise, but if you're in that situation, if you are the gunman, if you are the kidnapper, you want to believe that and why did he kidnap that little boy? we may find out he thought he was protecting himself. he was building his own shield between himself and law enforcement. and what happens, martin, people don't think these things out. realize, he had two years to build this underground bunker, but he probably had less than two minutes to make a decision what he was going to do once he got on that bus. so he didn't make the right decision, but as we all find out, martin, we make decisions that we have to live with and in some cases die because of.
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>> we're hearing reports, as you say, about him having had conflicts with his neighbors, that he didn't like government, and that he was some form of doomsday prepper. fill out for us, if you can, the kind of psychology of an individual who may take the view that in some way they're threatened by the nation or feel themselves at the whim of the nation and government. >> i think that it's easy for people to become he estranged f society. take somebody like the unabomber. when you get negative ideas about other people, when you blame other people, it's not like we could talk together and you could say, clint, i understand what you're saying but have you considered the
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following. when you're basically one person and you say who is at fault? who is to blame? you are the only vote that counts, and when your hand goes up and says i blame government, i blame my neighbors, i blame my neighborhood, i blame everybody else but me, that vote starts to take unique significance, and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. >> okay. former fbi profiler clint van zan zandt. clint, do stay with us. i'm joined by our justice correspondent pete williams. and, pete, what can you tell us? >> well, martin, two law enforcement officials have told us that the scenario we've understood is correct, that the boy has been recovered. he's safe. that that ambulance that was seen driving away that people thought might have the boy, this one official says, yes, that's correct, that ambulance was driving away with this 5-year-old boy who was taken away. they say that the officials on the scene, the law enforcement officials on the scene, actually
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somehow went into the bunker, got into the bunker from underground and shot the kidnapper. we don't know at this point precisely how they managed to get inside this buried bunker, but that's what happened we're told by two officials, that the kidnapper was shot, that the boy was rescued safely and has been taken away in an ambulance. >> because as i understand it, pete, there was only one way in and out of this bunker. so if that reporting is correct, is it possible that they found another means of accessing the bunker? they broke in as it were? they opened another access point? >> the answer to your question is it's possible, yes. i just don't know how they did it. this official i talked to wasn't precisely sure how they did it but was well-informed enough to know they had gotten into the bunker and that's how they managed to pull this off this afternoon. but how they did it, whether they used the existing method or
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some other method, i don't know, but apparently these officials have been talking for several days about the need to do something like this or what they would do if the time came when there was a need to do something like this, and so they were putting plans in motion to do it. what the precipitating event was, why today and not last tuesday, why today and not next friday, i don't know the answer to that yet. >> pete williams, thanks so much. and we're going back to the scene in midland city, alabama, and our correspondent gabe gutierrez. gabe, we're hearing that a press conference is imminent. can you tell us any more? >> reporter: that's right. again, martin, within the past half hour or 45 minutes or so, we heard there would be a news conference with officials from different agencies. we expect that shortly. but since i last spoke with you we have no new information on this press conference. again, this standoff now over. certainly a lot of relief that this child is okay. >> are you getting any
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information in the locality there that confirms what pete williams is reporting that the individual hostage taker has been killed but little young ethan, 5-year-old ethan, is well and safe? >> reporter: local officials -- my source within the dale county sheriff's office right now is only confirming that it was a positive outcome, that this child is alive. but i have not heard any details on the suspect. however, again, martin, we did hear a boom when we first noticed this activity going on. we weren't sure what that boom was. presumably it would be a gunshot but at the time we just didn't know. we're still waiting for confirmation about the suspect, but people hear in midland city, you can just feel it, that they're just so thankful that this child is okay. >> absolutely. we're hearing some speculation that the team there may have burrowed in and opened up a second access point. when we were talking earlier,
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both of us know there was only one way in and out of this bunker. did you see any kind of excavation taking place? >> reporter: we did see excavation throughout the day. again, you see that dirt road behind me leading up to that bunker. we have been noticing a lot of activity, people bringing in wood and two by fours and really we haven't heard from officials exactly what that was. frankly, i still -- we still have not heard exactly what that was. hopefully we can get more details on that at the press conference but there's a lot of speculation at this point. but martin, i just can't confirm that for you right now. >> and as far as you know, this press conference is what, judged or expected to happen in the next few minutes? the next half hour? >> reporter: last we heard it was supposed to happen really within the next 10, 15 minutes, but as you can imagine, martin, something of this magnitude, local law enforcement was working hand in hand with federal hostage negotiators,
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with the fbi, a lot of people in this community came together to make this happen. so right now i can't even imagine the logistical challenges that need to be worked out, the child being brought to the hospital, everybody trying to figure out exactly what happened before they come before the public. just an amazing story of this child spending 140 hours or so trapped underground in a bunker and now coming out alive. so we expect the press conference within the near future. that might be delayed so we just don't know at this point, martin. >> gabe, do stay with us. and thank you so much for your reporting. we're going back to our justice correspondent pete williams. pete, i think you have a little more information. >> well, i do. i have the answer to the question that we were wondering about a few moments ago and that is why now. and just to reiterate what i said earlier, that two officials have confirmed to us that the boy was rescued safely, that the kidnapper was shot dead, and two officials have told me that the boy is okay.
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that's the phrase they've used. now, as to the question of why now? an official who has been following this says that there was growing concern about the mental condition of this man who was holding him hostage, that there was a concern on the part of the people who were in regular touch with him that his mental condition was deteriorating, slipping, and that's the reason they decided to take this action today. they were growing increasingly concerned and alarmed about his condition and his mental state, and that's why they decided to take this action today. >> and were they able to suggest why that might be happening? >> no. i don't know the answer to that. >> okay. stay with us, pete. we're going to go back to our former fbi profiler clint van zandt. pete williams just reporting there that there was growing concern on the part of fbi and law enforcement about the mental
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condition of jimmy lee dykes, and that's what provoked the action today, some 140 hours after little ethan was taken hostage. >> well, number one, i think we're fortunate that we've got pete williams. pete always has his hand on the pulse of situations. >> i could not agree more with you on that. >> yeah. number two, in this situation, martin, one of the jobs of the negotiator, the gogs team, is to do a constant and updated psychological assess am on the threat level the hostage taker presents to himself and others. even though we haven't talked about this on tv for a week because we believed the hostage taker jimmy lee dykes had a television and perhaps a radio down there, there were two simultaneous operations that take place in something like this, martin. number one is the negotiations are done in absolute honest
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faith trying to come to a nonviolent solution, but number two, just like the tracks of a railroad train, the tactical teams are there, and they are putting together two different assault plans. one would be an emergency assault plan that if you thought instantly there was a threat to the boy's life, you would go in, and one would be perhaps what we saw today, the deliberate assault plan, which is where the tactical teams almost set up a model of what they have to deal with. they find a way to get in, and then when the decision is made by the on-scene commander, like pete williams is suggesting, that the threat level had reached a level where they could not wait any more and take the chance of the boy being injured, they made the decision to go in. and it sounds like this was a very well-done, surgical operation. we have to take our hats off to
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law enforcement to be able to do it. i think it's the first time in the country anything has been done in a confined area like that, and it sounds like it was very successful. >> and when the negotiators are engaging in this relationship with the individual hostage taker, what are the signs that the individual may be becoming impairant with the situation? does he become more irritable in conversation? does he talk less? what are the signs that the team is looking for that indicates that they may need to act immine imminently? >> realize there are mull. things you're looking for. in this case after a week they're looking for a sign that the individual dykes has some hope for the future, some thought of -- >> clint, we've got to go. the press conference, i believe, is about to begin. so the we're going right there now. >> steve richardson, who is the special agent in charge of the
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fbi's mobile division along with dale county sheriff wally olson as well as hugh mccall, we're going to give a briefing on the development that took place in this investigation and this will not be an opportunity for -- they will not entertain questions. we will have opportunities later for that. this is just a general briefing to discuss the development of what happened here today. so should be in five minutes. steve richardson, the spelling richards richardson. sure you all know wally olson o-l-s-o-n. hugh mccall, h-u-g-h, mccall m-c-c-a-l-l. thank you. >> so we're just hearing from -- what appears to be a public relations spokesperson explaining that in five minutes a press conference will be
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taking place. gabe gutierrez is our correspondent on the ground. gabe, go ahead. >> reporter: hi, martin. how are you? certainly a lot of excitement here as people await this news conference. i was able to confirm with local law enforcement that the child is alive and the suspect is dead at this point. and right now i am joined by michael, one of the local pastors that really has been so involved in this entire ordeal and comforting so many people in this community. pastor, tell me what have you heard and what is the sentiment around here right now? >> well, you know, there's excitement to hear that the young man seemingly is okay from all indications, and there's also like an eerie quiet around here because of the passing of mr. dykes as we have heard. so, you know, you hear the good and you hear the bad. we hate there had to be any
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blood shed but our hearts are thankful that from all indications will be okay. >> reporter: how difficult has it been to see the standoff go on for 140 hours and to wait -- okay. martin, i'm going to throw it back to you. from what we understand, the press conference is starting now. >> sheriff wally olson, colonel hugh mccall with the alabama bureau of investigation, major neil tu chief of the alabama bureau of investigation. at approximately 3:12 this afternoon fbi agents safely recovered the child who has been held hostage for nearly a week. within the past 24 hours, negotiations deteriorated, and mr. dykes was observed holding a gun. at this point fbi agents, fearing the child was in
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imminent danger, entered the bunker and rescued the child. the child appears physically unharmed and is being treated at a local hospital. the subject is deceased. the resolution of this matter is the direct result of the extraordinary collaboration between law enforcement at all levels. the exhaustive efforts and dedication of this community's law enforcement is truly exemplary. i want to thank everyone in this community that has supported us throughout the past few days. i know there are several questions that need to be answered, and more questions to come. we will have an opportunity to address these later as more details become available. thank you very much. >> can you tell us how the raid went down? give us a sense of it? >> at this time i'd like to thank everybody for your continued patience. the community support, and we
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appreciate everybody in law enforcement pulling together to get this job done. thank you. >> sheriff, can you give us a sense of how it went down, sir? >> on behalf of the alabama department of public safety, we had all of our resource% from the state of alabama hire to assist the sheriff in a safe recovery of the child and that's the most important thing is we have a safe recovery of the child. thank you. >> okay. again, thank you all. i know there's a lot more details that we're interested in. we'll have that opportunity very soon. we will alert you when that time comes. thank you. >> so the we have news that at 3:12 p.m. fbi agents recovered the child. negotiators felt that the negotiations were deteriorating. they observed mr. dykes holding a gun and, therefore, decided to enter the bunker. they rescued the child who was described as physically unharmed, but the hostage taker is now deceased.
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let's go back to gabe gutierrez. gabe. >> reporter: hi, martin. as you mentioned 3:12 this afternoon this standoff is over. it was confirmed that the child is doing okay and that the suspect is dead. police mentioning, of course, that within the past 24 hours negotiations deteriorated and that the suspect was observed with a gun. as you just saw in tra press conference and perhaps you did not see off camera, a number of the officials here that have been so worried over the past few days started hugging each other. it was a very emotional time not just for the sheriff who has been here virtually around the clock but a state senator who has been here. it's really an emotional time for them. one of those people is pastor michael sens who has been here since the very beginning. we saw him the first day we were here. pastor, tell me after hearing that news conference, what's going through your head? >> just very thankful that the child is safe. i have heard it for several minutes now, but to hear them
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say and confirm that the young boy is okay just really wants us to make -- makes us give praise to the lord for him watching over that young child and, of course, thanks to all the authorities, everyone in this community that have stood together in faith. you know, there's been hundreds of people that have come together to see this thing come to the close today, and this community as a spokesman for this community seemingly, i want to say thank to everybody that has been here to help get this boy home safe. >> reporter: you were in touch with several of the children that were on that bus when this all went down last tuesday afternoon. what have some of the families been telling you over the past few days and how concerned were they that this would not end the way it did and what are some of the things they have been selling you? >> to be honest with you, there's not been a whole lot of talk about it. i have talked with a few of the children that was on the bus, and then several of the children that goes to our church and teenagers that are friends with these kids and they have resumed
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kind of a halfway normal lifestyle. they haven't been back to school yet. i seen some out last night in the subdivision playing with their neighbors. i had a chance to actually talk to a few of them that was on the bus and even the kids that goes to our church that was playing with them said they have not said anything about what happened on the bus. when something as traumatic as this takes place, a lot of times it takes a long time for them to begin to talk about it. they seemingly have resumed a normal routine other than going to back to school which i believe is supposed to take place tomorrow. seem to be kind of normal again and shaken but yet they're getting back involved in life. >> reporter: tell me what you know about the suspect, jimmy lee dykes. you know, this did end with one person dead, that suspect, mr. dykes. tell me, what do you know about him and have you been in touch -- has anyone been in touch with any of his family? >> that's been one thing i have been wondering. we had conversation with several folks. i have not had confirmation he
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had family in this part of the country or any at all to be honest with you. >> pastor senn, thank you for joining us. martin, i'm going to throw it back to you. >> thanks so much. we're hearing -- we've learned that the hostage taking there in midland, alabama, was resolved at 3:12 this afternoon. fbi agents safely recovered the child who had been held hostage for about a week. 24 hours of negotiations had deteriorated where mr. dykes was observed holding a gun. mr. dykes has since died. thank you so much for watching this afternoon. the child is safe. chris matthews and "hardball" is next. ♪ welcome back to "hardball." as we pointed out in the past few weeks there are several states where republicans have floated the idea of changing how
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electoral dotes of divvied up. . states all have two things in common. republicans control the states legislatures and governor's mansions and president obama won the last two elections in those states. the scheme seemed to have crashed before they even began in most of those states. in florida, for example, top republicans have publicly backed away. in virginia a bill in the state senate was killed in committee. in ohio the republican governor indicated he was opposed. it's the same in michigan and wisconsin where even paul ryan recently said he was against the change. that leaves just one state for now, pennsylvania. and republicans there seem intent on going ahead. the senate majority leader says he will introduce legislation this month to change how the state's electoral votes are awarded. that woot mean instead of obama winning all of the state's 20 electoral votes, veld gotten only 12. it's another example of republicans trying to fight a demographic war that's going against them. will this latest scheme succeed? jim burn is the chairman of the
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democratic party of pennsylvania and eugene robinson is a columnist for "the washington post" and an msnbc political analyst. mr. burn, thank you so much for joining us. you have been keeping an eye on the other side up there in pennsylvania in harrisburg. what is it about harrisburg? when they get to the capital they sit around and play cards or whatever they do. they try to think of new weird ways to win a state without getting the most votes. it seems to be an indoor sport up there. >> well, chris, thanks again for allowing me to be on your show. we pushed back hard last year on the voterism d. and i don't know what it is when they go to harrisburg. some of it has to do with where they started. some of those folks coming up with these crazy ideas were like that before they got there, but when they get there, they empower each other or think they do. the bottom line is we've been right on the issues in pennsylvania. our candidates have been right on the issues in pennsylvania. we have won the presidency here since 1988. if the republicans would do it the easy way instead of trying to rig the system, put a moderate candidate up who is
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more in touch with the needs of pennsylvanians versus these radical right and extreme candidates that they continue to bring, maybe they would be more competitive, but instead of doing that or choosing to do that, they have to try to rig the system because the folks they're serving up in pennsylvania continue to get sent back in defeat. >> that's right. you know, gene, philadelphia, for example, 85% for the democrat, for obama. i grew up in that state. it was all always a 50/50 kind of state. if it was a reasonable moderate republican running they could win. >> look at the suburbs around philadelphia. that's the real battleground now. >> they think the republican party is a whack job. >> well -- >> that's what they think, even on guns and stuff. abortion rights and gay marriage. they think these guys are 50 years ago. >> it's not that kind of hard right state and it's true. if you put up those hard right candidates, you're not going to win the state. >> i agree with that. here is what -- by the way, michael smerconish knows that issue very well. he represents those people in the middle.
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dominick gave us his rationale. anyone who voted for governor romney does not have any reflection of that vote in the electoral college vote. this is a proposal that is not party specific or partisan in any way. but just an attempt to have the popular vote reflected in the electoral vote. of course, if you believe it's not partisan in any way, take a look at this telling comment fromr nc chair reince priebus. he told a wisconsin newspaper, it's something that a lot of states that have been kifert eptly blue that are fully controlled red ought to be looking at. mr. burn, these guys keep admitting what they're up to. they keep admitting if a state nationally votes for president for a democrat but is controlled in the state house by republicans exploit the power you have, screw the voter. >> one of the best pieses of evidence we used last years against the voter irment d. was the statement of the republican leadership, spem lead irturzai who said it was all about allowing mitt romney to win
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pennsylvania. now we have the head of the rnc admitting what we already now, specifically that they can't win on a fair playing field. where we have control of the legislature, where we have control of the governor's mansion, let's rig the rule it's, let's pass legislation, get it passed the democrats and be xhor competitive with weaker candidates. what a coincidence that they're not trying to do this in states that vote republican to the begin with. again, it's about cheating to win because they can't win on the merits. they don't have candidates that can win on the merits. >> i look at it with latino voters who are in play with president bush. 40%. now it's up to 70% democrat. instead of competing on issues like fair immigration policy -- >> let's find a way to suppress that vote. newt gingrich the day after the election said something really smart. there's something we don't get, we republicans, don't get about the leker to yacht and we better figure it out. but instead of trying to figure it out, they're kind of trying
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to figure out how to put a thumb on the scale here and shave, you know, off the weights there. and it's not ultimately going to work. ultima thely it's trying to h id back the sea. it does show how important the state level elections are. >> democrats have let that go the wrong way. >> kl. >> i want to ask mr. burn about that. is this a wake-up call for democrats who are involved with fights for the governorships, fight for the legislatures because they don't get the pr time and don't get attention on this show i have to admit, but they decide on reapportionment, gerrymanderi gerrymandering, election law and you find yourself going into a presidential election with the rigging already in place. >> and that was a wake-up call for us in pennsylvania last year. it allowed myself and other leaders in the party here to remind folks how important these down ballot elections are. you don't need a governor's race or president race to be focused and paying attention on who your
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representatives are going to be at the state and the state senate level, the representative levels, and we have used that as a talking point quite effectively. last year we picked up three state senate seats, the most since 1970. so we've closed the margins. we have a governor, a republican, one of the least popular governors in america up for a re-elect next year. if that election were next month with the right democrat we have him. so this is part of the groundwork and this is the type of behavior they continue to exhibit which allows us to enable our base to go out and recruit democrats, so, yes, these down level races are as important and there will be focus on them because of some of these type of attempts by the republicans to tilt the playing field. >> well, jim, i think you got a shot at beating corbett if you get the right candidate. i think the two-year term guarantee is off for corbett. he has not deserved that re-elect. anyway, thank you, jim burn and thank you eugene robinson. we'll be right back and this is "hardball," the place for politics. a talking car. but i'll tell you what impresses me.
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you got to bring it in. if your tires need to be rotated, you have to get that done as well. jackie, tell me why somebody should bring they're car here to the ford dealership for service instead of any one of those other places out there. they are going to take care of my car because this is where it came from. price is right no problem, they make you feel like you're a family. get a synthetic blend oil change, tire rotation and much more, $29.95 after $10.00 rebate. if you take care of your car your car will take care of you. here is some news. senate majority leader mitch mcconnell is not ruling out a filibuster of president obama's nomination of chuck hagel as defense secretary. mcconnell, who failed in his infamous vow to make president obama a one-term president, says republican opposition to hagel is growing in the senate. i'm not sure. like today john mccain, perhaps the most feisty critic says he's not on board for a filibuster and won't try to block hagel's nomination by filibuster. still some good in john mccain. and we'll be right back. [ woman ] ring. ring. progresso.
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for an honor guard for somebody. >> yes, sir, i'm sorry. >> no, no. just tell me, is there anything else i've arranged for? we're still in nato, arranged f? we're still in nato, right? >> yes, sir. >> what's going on? >> a homeless man died last night, a korean war veteran who was wearing the coat i gave to the goodwill. it had my card in it. a lance corporal, united states marine corps. >> if we start pulling strings like this, you don't think every homeless veteran will come out of the woodwork? >> that's great. here he is now, the emmy award-winning actor. the great thing about west wing was it was romantic, positive and everybody was loyal. it is that way. you're all loyal. everybody thinks everybody is a cynic and a bum. total loyalty to the president.
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and it was like that in your show. are people waking up to the possibilities of this in your country? >> my experience, i didn't really catch up to how the west wing was affecting people in america. until about 2008 when i went around to all of the debates and actually campaigned for joe biden. and everywhere i went, armies of people, especially's obama's soldiers and people worked for hiller, would come up to me and say you're the reason i'm doing this. >> what do you mean? well, "the west wing." that's why i decided to get into politics. so it did vn an effect, apparently, on a huge number of young people. and i think that's affected the last couple of elections. >> see many martin sheens in our
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business lately? do you find these romantic figures that really try to do the right thing? they wrestle with it. they have to succeed. >> i believe this president is of that built. i really do. i think he wants to do the right thing. i've certainly run into some people in congress who feel that way to me. >> he's clean as a whistle, too. there's no problems. there's no complications in his life. >> no, it seems like he's dedicated. it seems like his heart is in the right place, whether you agree with him or not or whether you think he's a socialist or not. especially did you hear the speech he gave on gun control earlier today. you can tell just from the behavior that this was coming from his gut. >> this thing is newtown happened on his watch. i think it matters to a president. he was chief law enforcement official in the country. it's part of his responsibility to make sure things like this
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can easily happen again. >> and it's been happening. and it's been recuring. it scares a lot of us who walk around without guns, you know, so i -- he's a father. he's a husband. and i think that's where a lot of this is coming from. >> many people think that hollywood is partially to blame. meantime, actor quinto quinton tarrantino got testy. take a listen to this fight. >> i don't want to talk about what you want to talk about, i don't want to talk about the implications of violence. the reason i don't want to talk about it because i've said everything i have to say about it. if anyone cares what i have to say about it, they can google me. i haven't changed my opinion one ioda. >> no, but you haven't flushed it out. >> it's not my job to flush it out. >> no, it's my job to try and ask you to.
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>> and i'm shutting your butt down. >> why don't poo figeople fight english accented people? we all grew up with cowboys and inyans. you learned how to do this with your hand, just pretending to shoot. we all learned that from cowboys and indians. violence is part of our culture. it has an interesting thing, but it's got a lot of violence in it. these are incredibly violent. don't they influence people? >> i think it influenced my son. i think the video games, probably more so. and it was a big concern for me. >> you're at the lanceburg theater. >> the shakespeare company, i'm doing a play called "hughy." >> i'll come down there. i love that theeter. it's a great theater. thank you, richard shift. he's been on our show and done a little prep for the play.
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when we return, let me finish with a victory for president obama and the roman catholic faith on the issue of birth controlment they fou. they found a way to work together. this is what i call high-level politics. horsepower and class-leading 38 mpg highway... advanced headlights... and zero gravity seats? yeah, that would be cool. introducing the completely reimagined nissan altima. it's our most innovative altima ever. nissan. innovation that excites. now get a $199-per-month lease on the 2013 nissan altima. ♪
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let me finish tonight with this. the obama administration has found a way to offer birth control to women who want it without infringing on religious belief. it's a victory for the president and roman catholics.
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how do we ensure that religious organizations are not forced to pay for it? allow employees of religious institutions access to stand alone coverage for birth control from a third party. covering the costs with small offsets have to take parts or they will put their policies on sale. the key here is it gets around a pair of goals that were in don flikt. regular use of birth control is one that works. the other goal is to protect religions from doing something they believe is morally wrong. my own belief is that the solution the obama administration reached here is win/win. i say this to someone who believes in the clinton case, that abortion should be safe, legal and rare. getting birth control to women for free will keep it rare. to keep the catholic church out of that transaion keeps it closer to the goal.